Since a single headline in The Gazette a few weeks ago, there hasn’t been a word spoken or reported about the possibility of Colorado Springs losing its Triple-A minor-league baseball franchise.
But it could happen, and that story was legitimate. No matter what some might think, the news could be bad for the Springs and, indeed, the entire Pikes Peak region.
At worst, Colorado Springs might find itself in a not-so-enjoyable scenario of being in a competition among three cities over two minor-league teams.
Since 1988, we’ve been home to the Sky Sox, playing in the Pacific Coast League, just one step below Major League Baseball. For a quarter-century, with Colorado Springs serving as the top affiliate for the Colorado Rockies, the situation appeared stable and permanent. But when the Rockies moved their AAA affiliation to Albuquerque last year, Colorado Springs took the only available big-league parent club, Milwaukee.
The issue now appears to revolve around stadiums, not just here but in the two Texas cities also involved, San Antonio and Amarillo.
Despite some nice upgrades through the years, the Sky Sox home at Security Service Field is falling behind Triple-A standards and will have to be replaced at some point. There was much hope that the City for Champions downtown stadium would take care of that and become the new venue, but that idea now would have to overcome much public opposition.
Meanwhile, San Antonio — with 1.4 million people but only a Double-A team — wants to build a new downtown stadium capable of attracting a Triple-A franchise. At the same time, civic leaders in Amarillo (with about 250,000 people) are pushing to build a stadium that would be a nice Double-A fit.
Here’s where the plot thickens: Both the Sky Sox and the San Antonio Missions are owned by the Elmore Group, headed by Dave Elmore. So if San Antonio wants to step up to Triple-A, Elmore can make it happen. Amarillo’s leaders know this and have been working for several months to start a courtship with Elmore. He could move the Sky Sox to San Antonio, relocate the Double-A team from San Antonio to Amarillo, and Colorado Springs would have nothing.
Don’t say it couldn’t happen. Elmore already has told San Antonio media he wants to see how committed that city is to building a new stadium. Likewise, though nothing has been confirmed, we hear that dialogue has continued about a possible new stadium here. But rest assured, any such project in Colorado Springs would have to be for a Triple-A team, not Double-A, leaving open the chance of reuniting with the Rockies someday.
Colorado Springs does have an ace in the hole, because the Elmore Group owns the stadium here outright. So another potential outcome is that the Elmores just switch their own teams, with the Triple-A club going to San Antonio and the Double-A team coming to Colorado Springs.
It might depend on which city makes the first solid commitment for a spiffy downtown stadium, Colorado Springs or San Antonio.
Think about it this way: What we already have is considered valuable enough that the nation’s seventh most-populated city wants it.
Shouldn’t that be worth fighting to keep?